The very antithesis of a dry run

Sat in the garden in the blazing sun this afternoon, you’d probably find it hard to believe just how wet it was on the Downs this morning when Cliff, Dai and I went for a run.  Such was the inclemency of the day that my comrades both turned up wearing trail shoes, with gaiters!  Had I thought, I could have brought mine, but then I would only have followed their lead like a sheep… a dangerous thing to be when Dai is around… allegedly!

We set off up the hill from Lewes Prison into the murk and within ten minutes there was water dripping uncomfortably from my left short, although it’s amazing how the whole spectre of getting wet differs between walking and running.  Walking can be utterly miserable on a wet & windy day, but running is often exhilarating… providing you’re wearing the right gear, that is!

At the first gate, Cliff and I were a little ahead and he amazed me by dropping to the floor for ten press-up and ten squat-thrusts, followed by another ten for good measure.

We passed Blackcap and he repeated the exercise at the next gate.  And the next.  And the next too, although it was difficult to see him through the mist & rain.  By this point we were at Ditchling Beacon and though I made a mental note of the time, I seem to have forgotten what it is now… maybe around 52 minutes.

From here we headed south to the top of Stamner Park, where Dai had predetermined to split off in order to head for home… sensible lad, that Dai and I should have gone with him.

Instead, Cliff took me on a magical mystery tour of the hills and valleys to the north of Falmer, although, to be fair, he did give me choice.  ‘We can either go down to St Mary’s Farm, across to Balmer Farm and back up to Blackcap’ he said, ‘or you can wimp right out (you wuss) and take the namby-pamby shortcut’.  He also pointed out that he had been seven-years-old last time he took the latter path.  Hmmm, let me think for a moment.

The sense of loss, in height, to get to St Mary’s Farm was palpable, especially as every step down (in the rain) was a step that would have to be replaced at some point.  It was at this point that I clearly smelt bacon, eggs & fried bread on the wind, but since that really wasn’t possible, I realised that it was my mind’s way of requesting more energy.

The run back out of the valley was okay, but as we got onto a gently rising ridge path around the ten-mile / hundred minute mark, I suddenly found myself right out of energy, or will-power… either way, I was walking.  Cliff was very gracious and walked with me, although it was clear that he had only just warmed into the run!

I walked pretty much all the way from there to the rise before Blackcap, with not-quite-two miles taking 25 minutes.  We ran from the gate to the cairn and on down towards Lewes and as Cliff made it a round-hundred press-ups and sit-ups while I paused for a pee, the weather finally began to clear and we could see Kingston ridge for the first time.

I just about managed to run to Lewes Racecourse, but past there I oscillated gently between running, walking & staggering… oh, and eating wild blackberries.

The whole run was two hours forty minutes for 14.7 miles and all things considered I’m surprised that the average speed was only slightly slower than normal at 5.5mph… still, not great!

The backs of my legs were more totally caked in mud than I care to remember, but I don’t have a picture so you’ll just have to take my word for it.  Likewise the rain in general!  Now, I must hobble back to the safety of the sofa!

Soupçon for Cliff

I went for a run this morning with Dai & Cliff.  The weather was not clement and I ran out of energy way before I got to the end.

Real quick

This is going to be a really quick post, as I’m in the office, but I have a couple of speculative articles to write this morning so this is to get me in the mood.

Tuesday was once again training night with Haywards Heath Harriers and I duly turned up despite the pouring rain and the fact that I had to change in the office to get there on time.

We warmed up with an 800m jog as per normal… normal, that is, except for the rain. 

David had laid out some flags as markers and after stretching out a bit, we hopped on one leg to the first flag, the other leg to the next, jogged to the last flag, did ten squat thrusts and sprinted back to the start.  Sounds easy doesn’t it, but it is surprising how quickly you run out of puff.  By the end of fifteen minutes, the hops were slower, the squat thusts more laboured and the sprints a mild jog!

At one point I was stunned when the whole ensemble raced inside because of a heavy downpour… having run through last winter (oh, and with the protection offered by my Gore jacket, which I had judiciously chosen to wear!) I hardly noticed it.  To be fair though, there were very few other jackets present and many cotton t-shirts, so I can’t say I blame them!

Next up were 200m tag sprints.  One of a team of two sprinted 200m around the end of the track, where the other carried the metaphoric batten for the second 200m and the first walked back across the middle to the start to keep it going.  My partner Mike was quick enough to ensure that I always had to jog back to meet him, but not as quick as two of the others as I was always chasing the same two people down the back straight.  This was a really great target and it made me stretch out far more than I otherwise would have done.

On one lap I found myself behind a young lad who consistently has too much energy, demonstrated rather well by the fact that in addition to being faster than anyone else, he also kicks his heels right up as if he’s still only playing!  I chased him hard down the straight and round the corner, but on on the exit he just stretched ahead while my energy failed!

Having run us out of energy, we then had a gentle 400m jog, followed by a mass start for a 400m sprint.  I started slow (or was that I HAD to start slow, on account of still being puffed out?) but managed to reel a few people in down the finishing straight.

The final 400m jog then started out as a walk for me, as that was all I could manage, but I must be getting used to the training as my legs weren’t quite so troubled later in the week as they had been in previous weeks.

This weekend is another garden special, but I shall hopefully get a long run in at some point to see whether the training is starting to make a difference there.  Have a GREAT  l o n g  weekend all!

Running after satisfaction

Last weekend I had the good sense not to try to run after a heavy day’s labour in the garden.  Yesterday once again saw me working hard on the new, um, shed and by the end of another eight hours or so, I had adapted the design again and jointed out the floor joists… of which there are eight.  I had also treated all the cuts and stowed everything away in the dry to make assembly slightly easier… whenever that actually happens!

As with my workbench, I consulted with Andrew, my woodworking mentor, which enabled me to take the huge step of getting my ideas off the page!  Though I collapsed in a small heap around 7.30pm, I experienced that rare type of satisfaction that you gain from trying something for the first time and somehow managing to make it work.

Somehow I managed to convince myself that I should run today, despite many contra-indications.  My muscles, particularly in my back, were really stiff from yesterday; it had been raining and it was now hot, meaning that the humidity was high and… isn’t that enough?

I ignored sense & went out anyway.  The going was really tough and unlike normal, it didn’t get any easier as I progressed.  I ran out past Ote Hall, skirted Wivelsfield Church, went round the back of Wivelsfield and then dropped into the village itself.  From here I ran straight along Hundred Acre Lane, cut round the Industrial Estate and returned via the Common.

I was not surprised that this short run took me over an hour, but I was surprised that I managed 7.35 miles.  The one hour nine minutes time meant I had only run at 6.39mph, but even this was faster than it felt.  Now I’m in a quandary as to whether this counts as a short, or long run!

This afternoon I felt the need to move very slowly in case of a personal power outage, but I still managed to lay the weed (or is that rat?) barrier and drill a few holes which will hold the posts up and treat the cuts and holes a second time.  I guess it was quite fortunate that I ran out of wood and hardware, otherwise I might have been tempted to overdo it completely!

Bizarrely I also had grand intentions to move files etc into my new office, but hey!  Enough!

First anniversary

This blog is officially one year old today and I thought it might be interesting to reflect briefly on what my aims were in starting it and what I have achieved.

I’ve long wanted to write, although not quite known what to write, which has always made it rather difficult to get started.  Having read Julia Cameron’s The Sound of Paper last year, I had come to realise that to be able to write you had to just get on and do it.  Regularly.  It actually doesn’t really matter what you write, so long as you do.

So the idea behind this blog and my other site to a certain extent, was to give me a reason to write.  But blogs are notoriously difficult to keep up, with many people writing a few inspired entries and then petering out when they can’t think what to write about.  Therefore I needed a subject that would keep me engaged.

Making it a blog about running meant that I had to run in order to write, which served two good purposes at the same time.  Run to write, write to run and it’s been a great year for both.  Including this one, I have published 156 posts, an average of 3 each week. 

In addition to attending 5 training sessions like the one on Tuesday, I have also run more than 538 miles, or around 45 miles per month.  Some months such as February were light, where skiing and ice driving meant that I only managed 22.3 miles.  By comparison I managed 66 miles in October, 67 miles last month and 69 miles in November.

As Clustermap shows, I have also somehow managed to notch up readers from around the world: in the US & Canada, Brazil, South Africa, Western Europe, the Middle East, India and China.  Despite this, it is clear that there are only a few of you who are more regular… you know who you are!

So, a hearty thank you to all the readers of and to all those who have commented to boot… you have made both my writing and my running much more enjoyable and I hope that you will stay with me as I run headlong into a second year.

Off-track training

Last night was training night at Haywards Heath Harriers and once again, Martin was running the show.

There was a good turnout, in spite of the chilly wind and I for one needed the 800m warm-up to do just that, despite three layers.  After stretching out we ran another 400m, this time fast, faster and fastest. 

Next up was a rough 75 jog before turning to sprint back.  There were some quickies in my group so I ended up pushing myself hard and ended up right out of breath after three or four reps. 

Which was a shame as the next session was a timed mile.  I should have had no problem with this, but instead I had two.  First, the chilly wind was giving me ear-ache and second, I couldn’t breathe out enough to get rid of the stitch that I’d got from the spinting.

I laguished home in a sluggish 7 minutes 19 seconds, with only my ease in the last 100m sprint to suggest that I could have got a (much?) faster time.

From here, Martin took us off-track, running down into the local woods to a couple of useful football-pitch-sized grass fields.  Useful also because they had a steep gradient, or in fact several.  Twice up the hill across the middle of the first field and back around the outside left me hot and shedding one layer.

The second field had a similar gradient, but also had large undulations and by the time I had struggled up the first couple of short hills, I had shed a second layer and was much more comfortable.  By the third time around I was coasting happily down the downhill sections and sprinting hard up the final hill.

With twilight fast approaching, we took a gentle jog back up through the dark woods and I really admired the way that the only partially sighted Mike just went with the flow, keeping a smile on his face despite the fact that he clearly couldn’t see the dimly lit multiple cambers, tree-roots, stiles, mud, overhanging foliage etc.

A final 500m jog around the track finished the evening and sitting here the next day, my legs don’t feel too tired… let’s see how they are tomorrow though!

What’s new on the drive this week?

My car had to go back for some remedial work which meant that my neighbours once again thought that I’d taken delivery of a new ride.

There’s a subtle difference in the way that a four-wheel-drive car corners compared to a rear-drive, which I would typify, from the very few miles I have driven this one, in two ways.  First, the front tucks into the corner more quickly, almost tugging, laterally, at the nose.  Second, on exit, where the steering on a rear-drive car is almost trying to get back to a central position, in the four-wheel-drive you need to take the steering angle off in a much more deliberate way.  In essence, it goes exactly, quite literally, where you point it.

I would love to try it in low-grip conditions… I bet it would be awesome fun!

Other things to note:  The Targa roof is gorgeous, but when it’s down it effectively obscures the view through the rear window, which is frustrating.  There is a really handy hatchback, but the hips and back are so bulbous that you’d seldom use it for fear of scratching the gleaming paint.  The sports exhaust is a triumph… I didn’t bother working out how to turn the radio on, just how to open the windows!  If cars weren’t generally so quiet, more people would enjoy driving below the speed limit in built-up areas just to imbibe the sound!

Weekend off

I chose not to run this weekend, but I did start to prepare the ground for my new shed so I don’t feel as if I have been slacking.

This involved moving two railway sleepers that hold back the bank in one corner, replacing them level and on their sides and reducing and levelling the ground inside to be able to build a framework on top.

After filling 18 bags to a ‘can just carry’ level, I ran out of bags to take the surplus soil, but I’ve cleared enough to progress… next time I feel in the mood!

And hopefully it won’t be pouring down with rain again next time!!

Does anyone need some additional soil… and have a truck to take it away… ?

After the physical exercise of the day, it was great to relax in front of the cinema screen.  We saw The Dark Knight, which was actually anything but relaxing.  Tense and darker than both the first in this franchise and previous versions of Batman & the Joker, this was definitely not for the faint of heart!  Excellent though!

Tuesday training

It may prove to be too far to drive after work, but I thought I would try Haywards Heath Harriers midweek training session for a second time.  I was not disappointed.

The trainer this evening was Martin, who introduced himself to me after I had run the 800m warm-up by getting me to do another lap on my own, split into fast, faster and fastest.  This meant I was knackered before we even started!

First up was some circuit training: two sets of two minutes each of star jumps, side jumps, passing medicine balls at shoulder height, squat thrusts and press-ups.  If I thought that I had been exhausted, I was now!

Next was 15 minutes of the fast, faster, fastest that I had already experienced.  Wiser now, I moderated my enthusiasm, but after ten minutes or so of keeping pace with the ensemble, Martin pulled three or four of us out to put more effort into it… basically dropping the fast bit and running only faster and fastest.  Two laps of that and I was pooped!

Next were 200m sprints around the end of the track, with a recovery walk back across the middle.  I thought I was going to get away with coasting this, but I soon found myself rising to be competitive!  By the time I had completed eight of these, I was strangely starting to get into the swing of it.

To cool down we had four light & fast 75m runs with a recovery walk back and then stretched out in a group.  A gentle 400m jog rounded off the evening.

I felt pretty good, but my second-morning-after aches were profound and as of Saturday morning I was still suffering.  The sign of a GREAT work-out!  Whether or not I decide to continue, I can thoroughly recommend this club!